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WEB DEVELOPMENT

Module mod rewrite Tutorial (Part 1)
By: Developer Shed
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    2003-08-09

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    The Apache server power commander part 1
    By Dirk Brockhausen

    You may have encountered the name "mod_rewrite" before when surfing the web. For all of our readers who are not intimately familiar with this nifty Apache Web
    Server module - and, of course, for those who don't know it all - we are presenting this small introductory tutorial as a multipart serial.

    Module mod_rewrite is a package of program routines which can be added to the Apache Web Server. (Note that it will not run under other web servers!)

    Its primary function is the manipulation of URLs. The module is very versatile as we are going to illustrate here with a number of real world examples.

    However, be very careful and meticulous when working with it! Some mistakes you might be liable to make could generate a logical loop, causing a never-ceasing
    100% CPU load.

    To steer clear from this, we will start off with some very simple examples.


    Before we can get going, however, you will have to check whether the module is installed on your web server at all.

    There are several ways to go about this:

    1. Ask your system administrator - provided he or she knows. They really should, but unfortunately some plain do not ...
    Take care, though: if you are sharing your host server with hundreds of other domains, your inquiry might rouse some sleeping dogs, as usage of mod_rewrite will always entail some increased CPU load.

    2. Check your Apache configuration file if you can access it. One possible standard path might be: /etc/httpd/httpd.conf However, your mileage may obviously vary.

    3. Check it out with one of the following examples. If it works fine, mod_rewrite is indeed installed on your system. If it isn't, you will get the following message when calling any web page of your choice: "Internal Server Error"

    Also, you will see this entry in file "error.log": "Invalid command 'RewriteEngine', perhaps mis-spelled or defined by a module not included in the server configuration."

    If your site generates heavy traffic, this method is not recommended, as every visitor will receive this very same error message during your test.


    So now let's dig into our first practical example!

    We will assume that you will be using mod_rewrite only for your own web site, i.e. not as a generalized cross server setup.

    To effect this, some entries in file .htaccess are required.

    The .htaccess File
    For this technique to work, you will need to upload a file named ".htaccess" (please note the period/dot at the beginning of the file name!) to your server
    directory. This can be done via telnet or ftp. (Warning! .htaccess should only be uploaded in "ASCII mode", i.e. not in binary mode!)

    If you already have a ".htaccess" file, for example one with the following entries:

    Options Includes +ExecCGI AddType text/x-server-parsed-html .html

    simply add our code sample to it.

    IMPORTANT!

    ADJUSTMENTS IN FILE ".htaccess": please edit in ASCII or plain text editor like Notepad etc.

    The first two entries will start the module:

    RewriteEngine on
    Options +FollowSymlinks

    Tip: Entry "RewriteEngine off" will override all subsequent commands. This is a very useful feature: instead of having to comment out all subsequent lines, all you need to do is set an "off".

    If your system administrator does not allow for implementation of "Options +FollowSymlinks", you will not be able to restrict usage of mod_rewrite to
    your directories but will instead have to apply it server wide.

    The next required entry is this:

    RewriteBase /

    "/" stands for the base URL. Should you have another one, you will want to include it. However, "/" is normally the entry for "http://www.YourDomain.com".

    And now to the entries proper!

    Let us assume that you want to block unauthorized access to your file .htaccess. On some servers you can easily read this file simply by entering a URL of the following format in your browser's address field: http://www.domain.com/.htaccess - a serious
    security gap, as your .htaccess file's contents may reveal more about your site's setup to the educated eye than you may want others to know.


    To block this access, enter the following:

    RewriteRule ^\.htaccess$ - [F]

    This rule translates to:

    If someone tries to access file .htaccess, system shall generate error code "HTTP response of 403".

    The file name ^\.htaccess$ is contained in a regular expression, to wit:

    ^ Start of line anchor
    $ End of line anchor
    \. In regular expressions the dot "." denotes a
    meta character and must be protected by a backslash (\) if you want an actual dot (period) instead.

    The file name must be located exactly between start and end of line anchor. This will ensure that only this specific file name and no other will generate the error code.

    [F] : special flag "forbidden".

    In this example, the complete ".htaccess" file will now consist of these lines:

    RewriteEngine on
    Options +FollowSymlinks
    RewriteBase /
    RewriteRule ^\.htaccess$ - [F]

    If we add our code to a pre-existing ".htaccess" file, we might, for example, get the following entries:

    Options Includes +ExecCGI
    AddType text/x-server-parsed-html .html
    RewriteEngine on
    Options +FollowSymlinks
    RewriteBase /
    RewriteRule ^\.htaccess$ - [F]


    This introduction covers the basics required to operate with mod_rewrite.

    In the second part of this tutorial we will explain the use of conditions in configuring the module.

    You may check up general documentation here:
    --------------------------------------------
    Module mod_rewrite URL Rewriting Engine:
    http://www.apache.org/docs/mod/mod_rewrite.html

    A Users Guide to URL Rewriting with the
    Apache Webserver:
    http://www.engelschall.com/pw/apache/rewriteguide/

    Continue with this tutorial >>>

     


    DISCLAIMER: The content provided in this article is not warranted or guaranteed by Developer Shed, Inc. The content provided is intended for entertainment and/or educational purposes in order to introduce to the reader key ideas, concepts, and/or product reviews. As such it is incumbent upon the reader to employ real-world tactics for security and implementation of best practices. We are not liable for any negative consequences that may result from implementing any information covered in our articles or tutorials. If this is a hardware review, it is not recommended to open and/or modify your hardware.

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